We’d set alarms for the morning but we didn’t need them. I was awake early again and got up. Anthony was already stirring in his tent and Dan knew he needed to get on the road early so soon enough we were all up. Anthony packed up in a flash and was ready to leave. He was driving west to the coast and was keen for an early start just in case eclipse traffic was still bad. We said our goodbyes but we’d be hanging out again in the Bay area in a week or two. Dan and I sipped on hot chocolate and coffee as we went through the final divorce. I collected everything of mine out of his car and he fixed his battery switch so that I could have my spare back. It only took a split pin, a hacksaw and a file to get there.
Just as we were packing it up, a young guy named Gordon came over to nerd out on our vans. He had an Astro one year newer than mine and was interested to see what both of us had done to make our cars livable. He seemed pretty stoked with some of the tips we gave him, especially the one about turning the Astro’s passenger seat around by rebolting it. Lovely guy, he seemed to have a long van life future ahead of him.
Since we were both heading into Bend, we thought we’d have one last hoorah on the road with Dan following me out of camp and south on the highway. He was caught in my dust as we exited the grasslands on the dirt roads before hitting the main road. There was heavy traffic, with every second vehicle an RV, but it was moving at normal speed so after patiently waiting for a gap we joined the masses. It took us normal time to get into Bend where I drove to Drake Park. We’d skipped breakfast so we ate cereal and contemplated what would happen over the next few days. A new bike for me and a huge drive for Dan to get back to Phoenix.
I said goodbye to Cleo, then to Dan. Like always, we didn’t know when the next rage would be, but we both hoped that he’d be able to come join me in California for a bit before I fly home. We will see. The two vans parts ways, never to be seen together again, it was a sad moment, but we were all smiles and waves as we drove away from each other.
I only went around the corner and parked by the public library. Inside, I got straight on the Wifi and caught up on my blogs. I was waiting around for a call from Shannon to let me know my bike was ready to be picked up. I was still blogging when the message came through on my phone. It was time! I didn’t rush away, but I didn’t hang around either. I finished what I wanted to get done then drove over to WebCyclery.
Shannon and my new ride were waiting for me. He spent a while going over everything he could think of and I bombarded him with questions when I saw something I didn’t recognise. He’d built it exactly to order and all felt right. Once I’d given it a short ride in the alleyway and we confirmed the suspension set up, we were done. I gave Shannon a grateful shake of the hand and walked out of the shop with my new wheels.
Hungry for lunch and not quite ready to do anything or make any decisions after such a momentous occasion, I carefully arranged the bike into the van, lying it down on the bed, then drove back to Drake Park. After struggling to find a park, I eventually got myself into a shady spot and made a salad roll for lunch. I was talking to Sheldan in the process and in finding out he was heading to Sydney, I thought I’d call Mike to see if they could hang out. It was a good reason to call my long-time mate since we hadn’t talked in a while and we ended up having a great catch up as I sat on the grass eating my lunch.
Once I was off the phone, I wheeled the bike out of the car and spent some time with her. I installed my pump under the bottle cage and removed some unnecessary fixtures that were there for the front derailleur Shannon had removed with the new drivetrain. I looked her over and removed a couple of unnecessary stickers. My favourite was the warning sticker that explained how the bike was suitable for going over SMALL obstacles only!
She was a clean riding machine and I knew this was the only time she would ever be so spotless so I did a photoshoot with her. Turns out Scottie is quite the poser!
Based on my only other mountain bike buying experience, when the handlebars came loose on my first ride, I knew I should take Scottie out for a spin before leaving Bend. I didn’t want to get her dirty since I was going to be storing her inside the Astro instead of on the roof but that was a silly notion considering what she was built for. Not feeling super energetic, I decided on doing the river trail Dan, Cleo and I had done a few days earlier. It would be a good comparison and I knew the riding was easy.
With Scottie stashed safely back in the van, I drove into the now very familiar forest. The smoke haze seemed worse than it was when we’d left on the weekend but it wasn’t so bad by the river. I took my time gearing up for the ride and after one last photo of a clean Scottie, we hit the trail. I took it slowly, riding a little bit like a Grandma, stopping to watch a couple of river rafters navigate the lower rapids before following the river upstream.
I didn’t stop much after that since I’d seen all the scenery already and just focused on how the bike felt. She was running like a well oiled machine. I was having trouble with the dropper post lever because of the awkward position it was in but Shannon had explained that it was the best compromise he could arrive at considering the position of the other levers on the handlebars. I didn’t decide properly that I wanted to do something about it until I came to the end of “Catch and Release”, the downhill trail that took me through the dense forest trees and back to my car.
At the end of the ride, it was just past 5pm and I wanted to get to the bikestore before they closed so I didn’t get to have a swim in the river as I’d planned. Instead, I wiped Scottie down from head to toe, put her in the Astro and drove back into town. Shannon had already gone home for the day, but one of the other mechanics helped me to arrive at a better solution for the dropper post. Shannon had mounted the level upside-down so it could be closer to the handlebar grip, but having the lever right way up and further away from the grip seemed better. It would do for now, I could always change the lever later if I fancied it. I thanked the guy and went on my way.
Despite the late hour, I wasn’t keen to spend another night in the smoke of Bend so I started driving south towards California and Lake Tahoe. Tahoe had been a stomping ground for me when I was living in the Bay area, but I hadn’t actually visited it during my unemployment travels so I was keen for a ride there before getting back to the Bay.
I drove for about two hours, taking the scenic highways on the east side of Oregon where there wasn’t the slightest bit of traffic. There were so few cars on the road and the smoke haze so thick that I actually thought I was maybe going down a highway that was closed because of the fire. It was the worst haze I’d seen and I feared that maybe I was driving straight into the fire! With no phone reception, there was no way to check, but the few cars that did come from the other direction served as a bit of assurance.
The east side of Oregon comprised of farmland and some shallow bluffs and I was surprised to enter a lightning storm over a small town that lit up the sky with chains of light. It rained heavily over this one town but the going was otherwise dry. When I reached my free camp in a Wildlife area, the road in was gated and locked. Not in the mood for more hunting, I drove two miles back down the road to the rest area I’d passed and considered that camp. It was a nice grassy spot and there was already a sprinter van parked up for the night that gave me confidence it was legal.
While I’d driven past the lightning storm, here there was fierce wind. It wasn’t cold and there were only a few drops of rain, but it was properly sideways. I saw a guy with a Prius and a tent take his tent down to sleep in his car which was packed full of stuff. I don’t know how he managed it but he wouldn’t have slept a wink in the flapping tent so it was the best option he had.
Inevitably, I spent the rest of the night inside, sharing the interior space with Scottie. She takes up a fair bit of room, but I was happy to discover I could position her across the front seats so that I could sleep in my bed like normal. All part of becoming a family.